Welcome to Out of Step Island
Previously, in Island Wars… When he was sent to cover Grand Seal Island, reporter Donovan Graham thought he was being banished to a sleepy Maine backwater where nothing interesting ever happened. Then he jumped into some wild parties, risked his feet in a firewalking ritual, fell madly in love with a beautiful sculptress, smashed most of his body in an effort to experience lobster fishing, met a crusty old man whose deceased wife used to poach ducks for fun, and got involved with a whole lot of other things he never expected. With the summer winding down, he tries to make sense of it all and look ahead to his next assignment. Click here to read earlier entries, or read on to see Van's latest update.
I needed someone to talk to. The referendum had been a pleasant distraction, but my thoughts quickly returned to Eliza’s death. Ever since I had scraped myself off the eastern beach, I’d been wandering The Village, looking for a good listener. Apparently, all the good listeners in The Village had already headed south, to warmer beaches. So I tried The Town.
In a town full of strange, straightlaced, uptight Quakers, exactly where does one go to talk about the suicide of a woman so beautiful she could inspire lust at a thousand paces? The local tavern? It’s run by Cory, who’d probably tell me to grow the hell up, and then kick me in the crotch to make sure I was paying attention. The local library? The librarian would probably lust after Eliza as much as I did. The minister? In a Quaker Meeting, that could be anyone. The Meeting itself was helpful, but I needed a one-on-one conversation.
So I stopped by The Larboard for a bottle of white wine, and then I walked down the porch and knocked on the door. Cory had sold me the wine, so I had a fifty-fifty chance.
Meg opened the door.
She looked beautiful in a grey beret that matched the grey of her eyes, and she smiled when she saw me. I asked whether she wanted to go for a walk down the beach.
We strolled away from The Town and toward peace and privacy. I wanted to ask Meg if she knew about Eliza, but I found the question hard to put into words. The sentence would bring the dirt and squalor and excess of The Village into Meg’s charming and easy and rosy world, and that didn’t seem fair. Sure, life in The Town isn’t exactly like growing up on Sunnybrook Farm, especially when you consider the murders, drug peddling, incest, feuding, and political craftiness that scuttles beneath the surface like a school of piranha in a calm lake — craftiness that Meg seems surprisingly skilled at — but it seemed cruel to inject the mindless abuses of The Village into it anyway.
So we walked in silence along the beach, and then Meg spoke.
“You really miss her, don’t you?” she asked, taking my hand.
I couldn’t answer. I just nodded.
“You brought some wine?” Meg asked.
I nodded again.
“Perfect,” she said with a smile. “That’s the start of the cure.”
Meg’s smile is enigmatic and exciting, like Mona Lisa when she’s feeling horny. It’s a spectacular combination of delight, lechery, warmth, promise, guile, and smirking humor. You don’t notice it when you first meet her. She’s too easy to stuff into the sweet-and-innocent box without a second look. But the arousing complexity of that smile reveals itself eventually.
I wondered how she knew about Eliza, but I didn’t ask.
We walked to the northeast, along the shore. The tide was low, and when we reached the northernmost point of land — Meg kept on walking. At first, I found the image disturbing; I had watched its parallel in The Village. But then I saw that Meg was walking on a chain of rocks that led out to a tiny little sandy island.
When we got there, wet shoes and all, Meg led me to the far side. The island has a small hump in it, so when you’re sitting on the seaward side you can’t see any other land or any other people. It’s just you and the ocean and the sun.
Or in this case, us and the ocean and the sun.
“This is where I come to think and to be alone,” Meg explained. “I call it Out of Step Island, ’cause I come here when I’m feeling out of step with the world.”
She stared out at the sea. “Which is pretty often actually. I’m sure other people come out here, and they have other names for it, but when I’m here, this is Out of Step Island. You can only walk here during low tide. Sometimes, if I sit out here and think long enough, I get trapped by the tide and have to swim in or wait.”
She paused again.
“I’ve never brought anyone else here before,” she added.
We sat on the sandy strip, staring out to sea like two old people on a porch. I hadn’t thought to bring cups, so I opened the wine and handed her the bottle. She took a deep swig and handed it back to me, all the while smiling and looking straight at me.
After a while of enjoying the sound of the waves and the silence, I wanted to talk about Eliza. Meg seemed to understand.
“So,” I said. “You’re a Quaker. Doesn’t that mean you’re a minister or something?”
Meg nodded. “We all are,” she said. “Not just Quakers — everybody. You’re in touch with God as easily as I am.”
“Then how come I never know what’s going on?”
“Maybe some people have thought about some things more than others,” she said, fussing with her dark-brown ponytail.
“What makes you think I can chat with the Big Guy?” I asked.
“Look at me,” Meg said. She grabbed my face and held it in her hands, firmly. I had no choice but to look straight into her eyes.
Damn. Her eyes are incredible. They’re grey, but not cold or hard. Warm grey, like a smoke-colored cat. Intriguing, like rivers that flow underground.
“When I look into your eyes, what do I see?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Retinas?”
“I see you,” she said, not taking the humor bait. “But what are you?”
I opted against another joke. I stayed silent.
“The you that I see in there — the you that you know you are — that’s your soul. This isn’t hard — you already know that. What’s your soul? A spirit. Where did it come from? The Source of all spirits. God. You, Donovan Graham, are a little droplet of God.”
She took her hands away from my face, but her storm-cloud eyes never left mine. I didn’t say anything. I swam in those rich grey eyes for a while longer, then I looked back at the sea.
“What does this have to do with Eliza?” I asked.
Meg took my hand and kissed it.
“I hear she was gorgeous,” she said. “Well, the part of her that men gawked at — the part of her that you gawked at — is gone. That’s OK — we’re all made out of mud. But the part that mattered, the bit of God in her, has moved from time into eternity. Mourn her departure, sure, but understand this — right now, at this very moment, she doesn’t miss this absurd universe one bit.”
I thought about that for a while, and then I kissed her. For a very long time. — Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Edith5545: Good for you, dear. That Meg seems like a nice girl.
Comment — BinoMan211: Whatever. No one could possibly be as awesome as Eliza.
Comment — WomynFire982: all womyn are as awesome as eliza — and as complex as meg, as sweet as edith5545, and as magical as lily. you just have to know how to look.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.